First Great Awakening
The First Awakening (or The Great Awakening) was a time period in Europe and British America when Christian puritans supported something that had to do with them not caring about other religions and taught their religion was the best. They persecuted members who did not obey the rules of their religion.Preachers preached in order to make people religious. The First Awakening (or The Great Awakening) was a Christian revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, and especially the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American religion. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.
It brought Christianity to African slaves and was a monumental event in New England that challenged established authority. It incited rancor and division between old traditionalists who insisted on the continuing importance of ritual and doctrine, and the new revivalists, who encouraged emotional involvement and personal commitment. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational church, the Presbyterian church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed denomination, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist denominations. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers.
Unlike the Second Great Awakening, that began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety and their self-awareness. To the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism, 18th century American Christians added emphases on divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversions that implanted within new believers an intense love for God. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and forwarded the newly created evangelicalism into the early republic. The evangelical revival was international in scope, affecting predominantly Protestant countries of Europe. The emotional response of churchgoers in Bristol and London in 1737, and of the Kingswood colliers with white gutters on their cheeks caused by tears in 1739 under the preaching of George Whitefield, marked the start of the English awakening. Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival and Methodism in England. Revivalism, a critical component of the Great Awakening, actually began in the 1620s in Scotland among Presbyterians, and featured itinerant preachers.
 American coloniesAlthough the idea of a "great awakening" has been contested by Butler (1982) as vague and exaggerated, it is clear that the period was a time of increased religious activity, particularly in New England. The First Great Awakening led to changes in Americans' understanding of God, themselves, the world around them, and religion. In the Middle and Southern colonies, especially in the "back country" regions, the Awakening was influential among Presbyterians. In the southern Tidewater and Low Country, northern Baptist and Methodist preachers converted both whites and blacks, enslaved and free. The whites especially welcomed blacks into active roles in congregations, including as preachers. Before the American Revolution, the first black Baptist churches were founded in the South in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia; in Petersburg, Virginia, two black Baptist churches were founded. Samuel Davies, a Presbyterian minister who would later become the fourth president of Princeton University, was noted for converting African slaves to Christianity in unusually large numbers, and is credited with the first sustained proselytization of slaves in Virginia.
 Jonathan EdwardsThe revival began with Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards came from Puritan, Calvinist roots, but emphasized the importance and power of immediate, personal religious experience. Edwards was said to be 'solemn, with a distinct and careful enunciation, and a slow cadence.' Nevertheless, his sermons were powerful and attracted a large following. The Anglican preacher George Whitefield, visiting from England, continued the movement, traveling across the colonies and preaching in a more dramatic and emotional style, accepting everyone into his audiences.
Winiarski (2005) examines Edwards's preaching in 1741, especially his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." At this point, Edwards countenanced the "noise" of the Great Awakening, but his approach to revivalism became more moderate and critical in the years immediately following.
 George WhitefieldThe arrival of the young Anglican preacher George Whitefield probably sparked the religious conflagration. Whitefield, whose reputation as a great pulpit and open-air orator had preceded his visit, traveled through the colonies in 1739 and 1740. Everywhere he attracted large and emotional crowds, eliciting countless conversions as well as considerable controversy. The English minister George Whitefield, who declared the whole world his "parish," sparked the Great Awakening. God, Whitefield proclaimed, was merciful. Rather than being predestined for damnation, men and women could be saved by repenting of their sins. Whitefield appealed to the passions of his listeners, powerfully sketching the boundless joy of salvation and the horrors of damnation. Critics condemned his "enthusiasm", his censoriousness, and his extempotraneous and itinerant preaching. His techniques were copied by numerous imitators both lay and clerical. They became itinerant preachers themselves, spreading the Great Awakening from New England to Georgia, among rich and poor, educated and illiterate, and in the back-country as well as in seaboard towns and cities. The first new Congregational church worship building in Massachusetts in the Great Awakening period of 1730–1760, was at the newly incorporated town of Uxbridge. It was pastored by the newly called Pastor Rev. Nathan Webb, a native of Braintree, who remained in the ministry here for the next 41 years. His student, Samuel Spring, served as an American Revolutionary war chaplain, and started the Andover Seminary and the Massachusetts Missionary Society.
Benjamin Franklin became an enthusiastic supporter of Whitefield. Franklin, a Deist who rarely attended church, did not subscribe to Whitefield's theology, but he admired Whitefield for exhorting people to worship God through good works. Franklin printed Whitefield's sermons on the front page of his Gazette, devoting 45 issues to Whitefield's activities. Franklin used the power of his press to spread Whitefield's fame by publishing all of Whitefield's sermons and journals. Much of Franklin's publications between 1739-1741 contained information about Whitefield's work, and helped promote the evangelical movement in America. Franklin was a lifelong friend and supporter of Whitefield, until Whitefield's death in 1770.
 Impact on individualsThe new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into religion in America. Participants became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. Ministers who used this new style of preaching were generally called "new lights", while the preachers who remained unemotional were referred to as "old lights". People affected by the revival began to study the Bible at home. This effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious manners and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation. The Awakening played a major role in the lives of women, especially, though rarely were they allowed to preach or take public roles.
The Awakening led many women to be introspective; some kept diaries or wrote memoirs. The autobiography of Hannah Heaton (1721–94), a farm wife of North Haven, Connecticut, tells of her experiences in the Great Awakening, her encounters with Satan, her intellectual and spiritual development, and daily life on the farm.
 Schisms and ConflictThe Calvinist denominations were especially affected. For example, Congregational churches in New England experienced 98 schisms, which in Connecticut also had impact on which group would be considered "official" for tax purposes. These splits were between the New Lights (those who were influenced by the Great Awakening) and the Old Lights (those who were more traditional). It is estimated in New England that in the churches there were about 1/3 each of New Lights, Old Lights, and those who saw both sides as valid.
 The First Great Awakening and the American Revolution This article is written like a personal reflection or essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. (October 2012)
The evangelical movement of the 1740s played a key role in the development of democratic concepts in the period of the American Revolution. The Enlightenment period taught an ideal based on ancient Rome of republican government based on hierarchical social orders of king, aristocracy and commoners. It was widely believed by secular Enlightenment writers that English liberties relied on the balance of power divided between king, elite and commoners, and that social stability required hierarchical deference to the privileged class. "Puritanism … and the epidemic of evangelism of the mid-eighteenth century, had created challenges to the traditional notions of social stratification" by preaching that the Bible taught that all men are equal, that the true value of a man lies in his moral behavior, not his class, and that all men can be saved. Franklin, who grew up a Puritan and became an enthusiastic supporter of the evangelical movement, rejected the salvation dogma, but embraced the radical notion of egalitarian democracy. The evangelical revivalists, especially Whitefield, were the greatest advocates of religious freedom, "claiming liberty of conscience to be an 'inalienable right of every rational creature.'" Whitefield's supporters in Philadelphia erected a large, new hall, that could be used as a pulpit by anyone of any belief.
In Virginia, the existence of Baptist preachers challenged the established Anglican Church. Young Baptist preachers were arrested and tried in Fredericksburg before the Revolution. The issue of religious freedom was incorporated into the new constitution by James Madison, who as a young lawyer had defended some early Baptist preachers.
Historians have debated whether the Awakening had a political impact on the American Revolution, which took place soon after. Heimert (1966) argues that Calvinism and Jonathan Edwards provided pre-Revolutionary America with a radical and democratic social and political ideology and that evangelical religion embodied and inspired a thrust toward American nationalism. Colonial Calvinism was the basis for the American Great Awakening and that in turn lay at the basis of the American Revolution. Heimert thus sees a major impact as the Great Awakening provided the radical American nationalism that prompted the Revolution. Awakening preachers sought to review God's covenant with America and to repudiate the materialistic, acquisitive, corrupt world of an affluent colonial society. The source of this corruption lay in England, and a severance of the ties with the mother country would result in a rededication of America to the making of God's Kingdom. However, Heimert has been criticized for not recognizing the differences between educated and uneducated evangelists, and for not recognizing the significance of Separate-Baptists and Methodists.
Some historians, in particular, Gary Nash in The Urban Crucible (1986), have seen the First Great Awakening as a means by which humbler colonial Americans were able to challenge their 'social betters'. Harry Stout (1986) has even suggested that the first Great Awakening radically democratized mass communication in the colonies, setting the stage for new popular politics later in the revolutionary decades that followed.
Christine Leigh Heyrman (1984) and Christopher Jedrey (1979) and others have been highly critical of Heimart's interpretation, arguing instead that The First Great Awakening was an essentially conservative movement and a continuation of other, earlier religious traditions.
Bernard Bailyn argues that the evangelism of the era challenged traditional notions of natural hierarchy by teaching that the Bible taught all men are equal, so that the true value of a man lies in his moral behavior, not his class. Kidd argues that religious disestablishment, belief in a God as the guarantor of human rights, and shared convictions about sin, virtue, and divine providence worked together to unite rationalists and evangelicals and thus encouraged American defiance of the Empire. Emphasizing intense opposition to sending an Anglican bishop to the colonies, and anger at the pro-Catholic Quebec Act of 1774, Kidd argues that they reflected the long term impact of the Great Awakening, in terms of apocalyptic warnings religious egalitarianism, and anti‐Catholicism. The result he says was that by 1773, when battles over taxation without representation escalated, Patriots were prepared to defy British administrators.